Spitfire Kicks Off Amid Threats Of Protest

Ex-Nirvana bassist and Indigo Girl are among speakers at first spoken-word event.

Spitfire, the global-affairs, spoken-word tour featuring former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic and Indigo Girls member Amy Ray, debuted as planned at Clemson University in Clemson, S.C., on Thursday night (Oct. 1), in spite of the efforts of a coalition of protesters trying to silence the event.

As the forum, featuring musicians, actors and activists speaking out on a range of political issues, got underway at about 7:30 p.m. EDT, the conservative organizations that claim the tour promotes "a gay agenda" were not making their presence known, according to representatives for the event.

"There's a lot of kids here, but no protest action," said Spitfire spokeswoman Sarah Haynes.

Still, the conservative action-group Operation Standard, which is led by Mike Griffin, vowed to continue the fight throughout the tour.

Spitfire -- which is currently a four-date tour, with plans to extend to full national- and overseas-outings next year -- addresses a variety of topics, ranging from actor Woody Harrelson's discussion of hemp and the environment to the openly lesbian Ray's address of gay rights. Speakers range from date to date, with MTV VJ Kennedy, Jello Biafra, leader of the Dead Kennedys, and Michael Franti of Spearhead among those scheduled to speak.

Objecting to the use of student fees to partially fund the event and claiming that Spitfire promotes the gay lifestyle with the intention of "recruiting" attendees to homosexuality, the locally based Operation Standard, which says it seeks to uphold family values, had united with several other organizations and begun circulating a petition among students, requesting that the school cancel the event and ban "others like it" or refund the fees.

Haynes said that she invited Griffin to participate in the forum during the question-and-answer session following the speeches.

"We find that engaging in dialogue with these types of people is fruitless," said Griffin, explaining why neither he nor his peers appeared at the event.

As Spitfire continues onto its next stop -- scheduled for the University of California at Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif., on Oct. 18 -- Griffin said his organization plans to continue its efforts to ban other events that he claims "promote the demoralization of society."

He said Wednesday that he plans to organize a lawsuit against the school if the students who signed the petition do not receive a refund on their student fees.

George Smith, director of University Union and Student Activities, said that the Spitfire tour was brought to the school by student committees and therefore the fees essentially are being used on the students' own volition.

"The students are the ones who actually chose this event," he said. "This expenditure for this program was authorized by the student government, who are representative of the student body. This is students spending students' money."